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Archive for September, 2013

“God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure.”  

~ Ephesians 1:5 (NLT)

FAMILY.

To some people, that word is loaded. It is complicated and may be associated with pain. But even in the most troubled of human family experiences, we all have a picture in our heads of the perfect family.

Maybe the mom has a string of pearls and the dad jokes and the kids don’t argue (like mine!). Maybe there is laughter and stress-free holidays. The dad gives the kids just one stern, authoritative look, and suddenly everyone’s behavior improves. The mom never raises her voice…the kids look lovingly at their parents while they work together to do the dishes and make their beds.

We know we can’t attain the perfect family here. Even in the “best” families, things are complicated. But according to Ephesians, this is not the only family we will belong to…because we are part of HIS family.

Ephesians 2:19-20,

“So now you are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are His house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus Himself.”

It might be fun to daydream about what the perfect family would be like, but our reality as believers is that we are already part of THE PERFECT FAMILY!

Right now, there is a little boy who lives in the Congo, and he is part of my family. My brother-in-law and his wife are in the long and arduous process of adopting him. He is adorable and precious and already calls them “mom” and “dad.” As they have worked through this process of adoption, they have done many things. Part of it is the work of citizenship. It is incredible to me that when they bring him home, he will already be a citizen of the United States. All this love and compassion that they have for him, all the work they are doing legally, and all of the time they have prayed will result in him having a new life here, a new home, and new citizenship. But that isn’t all, he won’t just be a fellow American…he will be their son. And that is precisely what God has done for us.

If it were modern-day adoption, He would have filed all the paperwork, done all the home studies and paid all the costs. He would have waited and prayed and Skyped and flown to Africa to bring us to Himself. But instead, He used His own Son, the perfect One, and Jesus paid the price of our adoption. He came all the way from beautiful, flawless, painless heaven to bring us up from the darkness and make a way for us to live with Him for eternity. He loves us THAT MUCH.

We were far away. He has brought us near. We were strangers. He has made us citizens of heaven. We belonged to death. He has made us His children.

He adopted us into His family. And we belong.

“God places the lonely in families; He sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.”

~ Psalm 68:6 (NLT)

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“For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”

~ Ephesians 2:18 (HCSB)

As I consider what it means to have access to someone or to something, I think about how the benefits of having personal connections grant me special access to something that I would not normally experience. For example, my husband and I have friends that own a vacation home on a lake. Out of their kindness and generosity, they invite our family to visit each summer. They treat us like family and give us access to share what they have so that together we enjoy the benefits of being their friends.

In the same way that our relationships give us access to something or someone, we have a spiritual connection with Christ that grants us access to God that no one else is able to give. Christ says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” When we place our trust in Christ as our Savior, we become a part of God’s family. As family members, Christ grants us direct access to God through the Spirit that is in us (Ephesians 2:18). Together, we share in the many benefits of knowing Him.

Written in words for us to remember, the following are some of blessings of belonging to God as stated in Ephesians 1 & 2. I hope this encourages you to tap into the benefits that we share through our relationship with Christ:

  • We are holy and blameless; He blots out our blemishes.

  • We are adopted as His children; we share in the privileges of belonging to Him.

  • We are forgiven; His grace is enough.

  • We are rich in mercy, because of His great love.

  • We have the Holy Spirit; God’s power transforms us.

  • We are His handiwork that enables us to serve others and do good works; we are useful.

  • We are brought near to God; we are not alone.

  • When we need peace, He is our peace.

  • When we need a friend to turn to, we have been given access to approach God.

The key to enjoying the blessings that flow from God is to accept His invitation and be willing to take advantage of access given through Christ. God is the owner of all good things; and, as His daughters in Christ, we have access to “every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3).

Stay tuned this week as we share devotions with you and discover more of the benefits of being God’s children.

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“The Messiah has made things up between us so that we’re now together on this, both non-Jewish outsiders and Jewish insiders. He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. He repealed the law code that had become so clogged with fine print and footnotes that it hindered more than it helped. Then he started over. Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated by centuries of animosity and suspicion, he created a new kind of human being, a fresh start for everybody.”

~ Ephesians 2:14-15 (The Message)

Have you ever experienced a fresh start that you were hoping would bring you peace? A chance to start over with your slate wiped clean? Maybe it was a new job, moving to a new town or a new relationship.

In this world we live in today it can be hard and sometimes may even feel impossible to find peace. Many times our fresh starts have something to do with trying to change our own circumstances without the help and guidance from the Lord. I have been guilty of this on a number of occasions in my own life. I have searched for peace in all the wrong places resulting in aggravation, distress and internal conflict. My peace is short-lived and only sustains me until the next challenge presents itself, and that’s when my plan shatters like a bowl in a china shop. I ask myself, “When will I learn to go to God first??”

The Lord responds to me by saying, “Keep trying,” and so I do. I cannot be distracted by what the world tries to tell me will bring peace into my life. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The world wants us to think that peace comes from a bigger home, a self-indulgent shopping spree, keeping up with the neighbors, or plastic surgery. Peace comes from the Lord. The Lord’s plan for my peace is personal; HE has designed it for my needs. HE has a plan for you too and it will reflect all the components you need to have internal peace.

Don’t spend another minute thinking about all the social media posts you read this morning that reflect “a perfect, peaceful life.” You will find peace by digging in the Word of God. Log off your computer, turn your phone to mute and tell your tweets they can wait, because the Lord is calling you to peace. Even if you start out with five minutes a day, START READING. The Word of God is real; it will transform you. Trust what I am saying. I am an imperfect human being. I have made many mistakes. I live in a real world with real distractions. I have been transformed by the Word of God.

Your fresh start for internal peace starts with Genesis and ends with a Revelation.

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“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

~ Ephesians 2:13 (ESV)

Thank You, Abba Father, for Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Peace, our Blessed Redeemer! In Him, we are forever with You!

I don’t know what I would do without Jesus in my life. I would be literally lost because I would be spiritually lost. I would not know joy, only momentary happiness which lasts about a second in the scope of real life. My judgment, my attitude, and my actions would all be based on me. I would be a worldly sponge, with no wisdom or discernment to squeeze the knowledge in a healthy direction. Therefore, it would not be filtered with unconditional love, grace, or mercy; rather, it would be filled with “self-consciousness,” not “Christ-consciousness” (Oswald Chambers). In addition, there would be no complete forgiveness and guilt would weigh heavy within the humanness of my life.

Because I have Jesus, I am entitled to everything He wants to share with me! I have hope. I know what grace is because God has shown it to me through Christ. I have the joy of Jesus. John 15:11 reads, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Because I have Jesus, I have the ability to faithfully ask for wisdom and it will be given to me. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).

Because I believe Jesus loves me, my actions are filtered with grace and mercy. Upon my sincere asking in faith, my sins are forgiven and forgotten. Luke 5:20 says, “And when He saw their faith, He said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.’” Psalm 103:12 declares, “As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.”

Because Jesus loves so deeply, He gave His life to give me mine for eternity. From being far off to being brought near, O’ how He loves you and me!

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“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

~ Ephesians 2:10

I have always been taught that actions speak louder than words. When I felt called to have a close and meaningful relationship with our HEAVENLY Father, I felt Him calling me to do good works. I didn’t know right away what I was being called to do, but I knew I needed to start by doing something. So at first, I volunteered to set up tables for an all-church picnic. It was fun. Then, I volunteered to be a greeter at a Christian recovery program. I was able to meet some great people and this helped me to see others’ needs also; my attitude about life improved too. From there, I felt God continuing to call me to do various volunteer functions. The more I did, the more I knew what I was being called for and the more fun I was having. I could feel myself growing closer to God. As I grew closer to God, I wanted to learn more about Him.

When I have someone special in my life, whether it is a friend, a child or a spouse, I want everyone to know how special that person is and I want to do special things for that person. That is how it is with God. He is very special in my life and I love Him more than words can say. Because of that, I want everyone to know how special He is. By serving at my church and in my community, I am showing others by my actions what an amazing God He is.

It took me stepping outside my comfort zone, doing things I normally wouldn’t do, to grow in Christ. I remember before I had a relationship with Jesus, I would swear I would never do certain things. Now God has taken me, slowly at first and then by leaps and bounds, through a series of events to expand my comfort zone. What I was certain I would never do, with God’s help, is something I do all the time with ease.

Next time you see a need at your church or in your community, what are you going to do? I know that prayer and guidance from God will be the first step I take. Hope to see you out on God’s mission field!

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“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

~ Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)

I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand to throw food away! I’m always thinking about the tummy that is hungry when there is no food to be found or the outdoor creatures who struggle to find food when it is so scarce in the midst of the cold, wintry days! So, if I have to discard it because of its age, the first place I look to is the state land that hedges our backyard. I don’t put just anything back there, only what would be good and healthy for the animals that live there.

That is how I humbly look at what God does for us through Jesus, His Son. In the beginning and before I made the decision to walk with Jesus, although I was created in the image of God, I felt like a leftover. I felt unworthy of much, existing to see what the next day brought and taking care of, as best I could, the responsibilities that were given to me. I didn’t want to discard even the last morsel that hadn’t already been used up though, so I took those pieces of my life and selfishly gave them to me. But because they were the parts that were so spent, so withered, they were not healthy for this human body, mind, or heart, and the spoilage became rotten and spread to some of the innards of the leftover me that were still good.

Then, I met Jesus! I learned that the spoilage needed to be cut off, not kept for future use. Only then would what remained be healthy enough to begin a new growth from that which had begun to spoil. Only then could I become the person God could use for His glory, and only then would my leftovers, unselfishly given, be of use to another in need.

Now, as I walk this journey with Jesus as my guide and examine the leftovers I daily have in my life, I am able to truly visualize the workmanship of God through Jesus in my life. My leftovers are not spoiled or rotten, but they are simply the wisdom of God’s grace to me that I can pass on to another.

In His love, remember: Our leftovers may be the fruit God uses to feed the babies (young believers), as they walk the journey He’s prepared for their path.

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“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

~ Ephesians 2:8 (ESV)

“…by grace you have been saved through faith…” There was a time when I did not understand this at all! It was because I did not understand what grace was, let alone that it was a gift from God!

What a package to receive! Do we know we receive His special gift of grace every day at just the right moment? We each need this gift, sometimes, on a moment to moment basis. And, we need to give grace away as well, for in giving it away, we are imitating Jesus’ love for all mankind.

As I began to understand what true salvation was, my curiosity of how we as Christians attain this became more alluring to me. This verse brought me the answer to the question of how and began my journey of what true faith was and the depth of the meaning behind it. We are all humans, imperfect creatures saved through faith only by grace: unmerited, divine favor from God. This is His gift to us, and we must remember to pass it forward to all as He does to us, not in the realm of saving, for that is God’s alone. Rather, we pass it forward in the realm of kindness, a courtesy we should extend to all.

In extending kindness to others, I have learned the greatest measure of love I have ever known. It is the joy of helping others and of true friendship. It is true, caring love which only comes from God! It is the only infallible love and the only infinite love. I am so grateful He had me in His plan, and He will continue to shower grace, through faith, on my life forever.

In His love, give the gift of grace today!

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